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U.S. Virgin Islands

St. Thomas Cruise Port Tips

Charlotte Amalie Known for Its Popular Duty-Free Shopping
View of St. Thomas port from the cruise ship. © 2017 Scott Bateman
View of St. Thomas port from the cruise ship. © 2017 Scott Bateman

The St. Thomas cruise port at Charlotte Amalie is one of the most popular duty-free shopping destinations in the Caribbean. It’s also a common stop for any eastern Caribbean cruise.

More than 2 million people visit the U.S. Virgin Islands by cruise ship every year, according to the Caribbean Tourism Organization. The vast majority go to St. Thomas. The fact that St. Thomas is so popular with cruises makes it a very commercialized experience.

Ships usually disembark passengers at the Havensight cruise dock. Visitors can walk off the ship and right into Havensight Mall, which has more than 100 shops and the same duty-free prices as Charlotte Amalie.

The area around the mall has grown to the point where fewer visitors are going into Charlotte Amalie to shop. It’s possible to limit shopping to the dock area, forget about Charlotte Amalie and take off for attractions and excursions.

Quick Tips


  • Charlotte Amalie is a long walk or short taxi ride from the docks.
  • Duty-free shopping limit is double most other Caribbean islands.
  • Attractions are OK, beaches are good, snorkeling is great.

    Attractions and Shore Excursions


    St. Thomas cruise visitors can take advantage of other things to do besides shopping and dining at the many outdoor restaurants.

    Fort Christian St. Thomas
    Fort Christian; © U.S.V.I. Depart. of Tourism
    The island does not have famous and popular natural attractions like some other islands, such as Stingray City at Grand Cayman. But it does have well-known commercial attractions.

    One of them is right by the cruise docks. The St. Thomas Skyride near Havensight Mall goes 700 feet up to the top of Flag Hill for a grander view of Charlotte Amalie and St. Thomas Harbor. Photographers will have plenty of views to shoot. Tickets at the time of this writing were $21 for teens and adults and $10.50 for children 12 and under.

    The Coral World Marine Park & Observatory at Coki Point has a tropical nature trail, marine gardens aquarium, coral reef tank and an underwater observatory. It’s a 25 minute drive on the opposite side of the island from the cruise docks.

    General admission tickets are $10 for adults and $6 for children. Animal encounters cost more; prices vary. Paid excursions are available that include both the park and Coki Beach, which has an entry fee. Prices start at about $50 per person.

    Historical attractions include Fort Christian, the oldest structure in the Virgin Islands and dating from the early 1670s. It is one and a half miles from the docks and within Charlotte Amalie. Passengers can combine a visit to the fort along with some shopping.

    Blackbeard's Castle, a watch tower built in 1679, is the focal point for a tourist attraction that includes a garden, rum factory, hotel and other facilities. The site at Lille Taarne Gade is just a five minute walk north of Fort Christian.

    Beaches Near the Cruise Port


    U.S. Virgin Islands photo
    Magens Bay, St. Thomas;
    © U.S. Virgin Islands Depart. of Tourism
    Some cruise visitors just like to hit a good beach.

    Visitors can jump into a taxi and spend the afternoon at the nearest beaches, which are Limestone and Morningstar.

    Limestone is small and quiet, while Morningstar is larger and more active. Two resorts overlook Morningstar, which makes it easier to get a taxi back to the cruise ship.

    Magens Bay is St. Thomas's most popular beach. The one-mile-long beach is a public park with calm waters protected by a heart-shaped bay. It is only four miles north of the docks and a quick ride by taxi, rental car or excursion bus.

    Prices for shore excursions through cruise lines and tour operators start at about $35 per person including the $5 per person entry fee to the beach. Visitors may find cheaper and more timely options via taxi.

    Beach chairs and floats are available for rent. Burgers, pizzas and other snacks are available for sale at the snack bar. Lifeguards are on duty every day.

    Coki Beach, located at Coki Point next to Coral World Ocean Park, is popular for snorkeling and diving. Services include food vendors, dive shop, jet ski rental, beach chairs and floats. Excursion prices including transportation and beach entry fee start at about $40 per person.

    Some operators offer an excursion via ferry from St. Thomas to the top-rated Trunk Bay Beach on St. John. The five-hour tour includes half of the time on the beach and the other half getting there and back again. Prices start at about $70 per person plus a beach entry fee.

    Otherwise, tours that involve ferries, sailboats and catamarans to St. John are common.


    Shopping / Restaurants


    Shopping


    Anyone with a big interest in shopping can start at Havensight Mall first and then move on to the town.

    Otherwise, the mall is a quick and easy shopping option for visitors planning other activities during their cruise visit.

    Walking to Charlotte Amalie from the ship and the mall is an option for very fit people with extra time; a taxi is a more likely option. Taxi rates are based on the destination, per person, and are not metered.

    Expect to pay about $8-10 to go from the dock to the town. As always, check the rate with the driver before entering the vehicle.

    Charlotte Amalie shops have many of the same goods as the mall -- jewelry, gemstones, watches, designer clothing and spirits -- but there are many more shops and of course a chance for more bargains.

    Most of the stores are on Main Street. The duty-free allowance is $1,600.

    Restaurants


    Both Havensight Mall and Charlotte Amalie town have a wide assortment of casual restaurants. U.S. dollars, credit cards and traveler's checks are widely accepted.

    Havensight Mall restaurants include Beni Iguana’s Sushi Bar & Restaurant, Barefoot Buddha (sandwiches), Havensight Café, Hooters, Paradise Gate, Paradise Point Bar & Café, Senor Frogs, The Delly Deck and The Great Wall Chinese Restaurant.

    Charlotte Amalie restaurants include Big Kahuna Rum Shack, Coconuts Bar & Grill, Cuzzin’s Caribbean Restaurant, Gladys Café, Golden Dragon Chinese, Hervé Restaurant and Wine Bar Restaurant, Jen’s Gourmet Café and Deli, The Greenhouse Restaurant and Virgilio’s Restaurant.

    Getting Around / Transportation


    Taxis on St. Thomas are not metered. The Virgin Islands Taxicab Division sets rates, which are per person and per destination.

    Expect to pay about $8-10 per person for two people to take a taxi from the cruise docks to Charlotte Amalie. Always check the rate with the driver before getting into the cab.

    Many car rental agencies are located on the island and mainly concentrated at the airport. But they usually provide free pickup and dropoff.

    Limited bus routes also are available but not recommended.

    Weather


    Warm weather isn't a problem for the U.S. Virgin Islands.

    The average high temperature ranges from 85 degrees Fahrenheit from December through March to about 90 degrees from July through September.

    Rainfall determines the best time to go. The islands receive an average of two to three inches of rain per month from December through July.

    Heavier rains begin in August and reach a high point of more than five inches in September, October and November during the peak of the Caribbean hurricane season.
    Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas.

     > Category: Cruise Ports   

    June 25, 2019

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